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Stranded Munster's COVID nightmare worsens

By Paul Smith
Munster face further COVID problems according to reports (PA)

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Munster’s COVID-19 nightmare has worsened with nine further players confirmed to have tested positive.

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Their departure from South Africa was delayed after one of their players returned a positive test on Sunday while a second member of the group was identified as a close contact.

Hopes were then raised when Ireland’s Minister for Sport, Jack Chambers, revealed that the remainder of the touring party had been given the all-clear to return home provided further tests proved negative.

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Captain Dupont
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Captain Dupont

However, a second round of PCR testing done on Monday has produced nine additional positives among the 48-strong group of players and support staff with the majority of the remainder identified as close contacts.

The province’s website carries the following statement.

“Munster’s latest round of PCR testing has identified nine positive cases.

“The group, including staff and players, will move to the designated quarantine hotel in Cape Town, joining the first player who tested positive on Sunday.

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“The remaining party of 38 have all returned negative results and continue to individually isolate in their rooms where they have been based since Sunday night.

“As outlined by the Irish government on Monday, those that have received negative results have clearance to travel from the South African authorities.

“In taking every precaution, the touring party have completed another round of PCR testing this morning, the third in less that 60 hours, and will wait on results ahead of next steps.

“The 10 members of the group who have tested positive will remain in Cape Town until the end of their isolation period. While the individuals were disappointed on receiving the news, they are thankfully well and will continue to be monitored medically at this time.

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“We understand this is a challenging situation and would like to thank families, friends, colleagues and our rugby community for the many messages of best wishes.”

Along with fellow URC sides Cardiff, Scarlets and Zebre the Thomond Park outfit arrived in South Africa two weeks ago only for concerns surrounding the new Omicron variant to subsequently see matches postponed.

Munster then moved from their Pretoria base to the Western Cape from where they intended to join the other three clubs on a Sunday flight to Dublin before the positive tests intervened.

Cardiff have faced similar issues following positive tests and as a result both clubs are isolating in hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, Scarlets and Zebre made it to Dublin, with the Welsh side now isolating at a hotel in Belfast while the Italian outfit are now back in Parma.

This has thrown uncertainty over the opening round of Heineken Champions Cup action, due to take place on December 11 and 12, when Munster are due to face Wasps in Coventry.

It now seems increasingly likely that Munster will field a makeshift team against the English Premiership club with a group of academy players being joined by their group of big-name internationals who sat out the South Africa trip following their involvement in the Autumn International Series.

This would include the likes of Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Keith Earls, Tadhg Beirne, Damian de Allende, Andrew Conway and Joey Carbery. Munster have reported that Academy Manager Ian Costello – who recently rejoined from Wasps – is overseeing training for this group.

With six props and four hookers currently holed up in Cape Town there are also safety considerations for Munster who could be forced to draft in loan players to fill gaps. In addition, having last played a game on October 23, match fitness is also a potential issue.

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